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Sevilla seek an end to Braga's saga

Coach Antonio Álvarez is hoping Sevilla FC's losing streak will come to an abrupt end against an SC Braga side determined to build on a 1-0 first-leg lead and book their group-stage debut.

Sevilla need Frédéric Kanouté to be at his best
Sevilla need Frédéric Kanouté to be at his best ©Getty Images

Sevilla FC coach Antonio Álvarez admits he and his players will be "playing for our lives" when they look to overturn a 1-0 deficit against SC Braga in the second leg of their UEFA Champions League play-off.

Sevilla dominated the opening exchanges at the Estádio Municipal last week but failed to find the net and eventually succumbed to a rejuvenated Braga, who earned a narrow advantage thanks to Matheus's second-half header. That defeat was followed by a further setback for the Andalusian side at the weekend as FC Barcelona swept to a 4-0 victory in the Spanish Super Cup second leg with Sevilla having taken a 3-1 first-leg lead to the Camp Nou.

Dismissing suggestions confidence in the camp was low after back-to-back losses, Álvarez insisted: "This is the most important game of the season for us. We were pretty down on Sunday but we've forgotten about that and now there are only good vibes within the group. In football, when you have another game just around the corner you have to quickly turn the page and we must be optimistic."

Goalkeeper Andrés Palop and striker Luis Fabiano both complained of thigh problems following the defeat against Barça but are expected to be fit for Tuesday's encounter at the Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán. Abdoulay Konko returns to the fold having missed the first leg through injury. Tiberio Guarente (calf) and Ivica Dragutinović (achilles tendon) remain sidelined.

Insisting his players "have the talent to get through this eliminator,"
Álvarez singled out Sevilla's attacking duo as the men who could make the difference. "Luis Fabiano and Frédéric Kanouté are two crucial  players in this team," the coach said. "They are phenomenal and they have to show what they can do against Braga."

Last season's Portuguese runners-up have already eliminated Celtic FC, and are eager to push on to earn a first campaign in the UEFA Champions League group stage. "This is a dream we think we can accomplish," said coach Domingos Paciência. "A week ago people did not give us as much respect and consideration as they do today."

Injuries have deprived the Arsenalistas of goalkeeper Quim, defender Léo Fortunato and midfielder Mossoró, while Miguel Garcia is suspended, but their ambitious 41-year-old coach is optimistic. "I think it will be difficult not to score in this game," Paciência said. "It will be a different kind of match than the first leg but I am sure it will be a great one to watch."